184 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
ment or to society, except the fattening of the parasites' own
But the parasites are so thickly entrenched in their local
ground that any new regime almost has to work with them
and through them. They parcel out the butchery tax, the
prostitution tax and the gambling tax, and from what they
invest in, they naturally expect to get the greatest returns.
This idea of the "greatest returns" proves ruinous to the people.
There is no limit to their rapacity, for no definition of "the
greatest" is possible. And with their professional knowledge,
they can invent new taxes. Every new official has a few of
these gentry friends officially or unofficially connected with
his yamen. They may come for a visit, and between the
sippings of tea may often utter a sigh: "Ah! come to think of
it, there are at least 15,000 troughs for feeding pigs in every
hsien, and 150,000 troughs in every district of ten hsien. A
dollar per trough would net in a very handsome sum, very
handsome indeed." Down goes another gulp of fine lungching
tea. When there are many such sighs and flashes of insight,
the official really begins to learn the art of extracting human
fat and human marrow. The official is profoundly grateful
and feels half ashamed of his own ignorance. He is maturing
in "the ways of the world." Soon after the pig-trough tax, the
gentry scholar discovers the coffin tax, and after that the
wedding-sedan tax. ...
I have always connected these scholar gentry in my thoughts
with the divinely beautiful white cranes in Chinese paintings.
They are so pure, so white, so unearthly. That is why they
stand for the symbol of the Taoist recluse, and fairies go up to
heaven on their backs. One would think they were fed on
ether. But they are fed on frogs and earthworms. What if
their plumes are so white and smooth and their steps so stately!
The trouble is they must feed on something. The gentry,
who know all the good things of life, must live, and in order to
live, they must have money.
Their love of money forces them to work with the rich, and
here we come to the real inequality in China, economic in-
equality. In Chinese towns there was always a male Triad:
the magistrate, the gentry and the local rich, besides the female